The war of words between state Sen. Dan Kotowski (D-Park Ridge), a fierce gun control advocate, and the Illinois State Rifle Association has apparently escalated to the point where the nutballs are coming out of the woodwork.
Sen. Kotowski's office claims they have turned over information to the Illinois State Police about ten or so contacts from apparent pro-gun people, including a call where somebody allegedly said, "I have a gun. I am going to come and kill you."
Kotowski was a gun control advocate long before he was elected to the Illinois Senate, and the Rifle Association and other gun groups have targeted him for abuse ever since he won his first term last November.
A mailer sent into Kotowski's district earlier this year claimed that Kotowski wanted to take guns out of the hands of soldiers fighting overseas.
The Illinois State Rifle Association also slammed Kotowski recently for "dancing in the blood of the Virginia Tech victims" after he introduced a bill banning certain ammo clips. The gun-rights group's Memorial Day message included several digs at Kotowski, including: "Millions of brave Americans did not die just so that Dan Kotowski could reinvent America."
The Rifle Association tried to get in front of the Kotowski death threat story earlier last week by sending out a press release claiming that Kotowski was overreacting and stomping on the free speech rights of its members. The group examined a series of faxes sent by a single person who claims to have been visited by the State Police. The faxes released by ISRA don't appear to contain any direct threats.
A Kotowski spokesman explained last week that since the Senator's staff has been on the receiving end of most of the calls and faxes, it was left to them to decide which ones to turn over to the police. The spokesman insisted that the office had received two direct death threats and that about ten or so had "creeped out" the staff to the point that they felt the cops ought to see them.
"If Illinois State Rifle Association members were as law abiding and anti crime as they claim, then they would be the first to condemn these threats and help to champion the cause for measures designed to get guns away from those with criminal intent," Kotowski said in a press release, adding he was a strong proponent of the 1st Amendment right to free speech.
Several weeks ago, the Rifle Association was all atwitter after Chicago priest Michael Pfleger called for pro-gun legislators and a gun shop owner to be "snuffed out."
I seriously doubt that Pfleger wanted to actually kill a pro-gun legislator, but his remarks were irresponsible and Chicago's Cardinal George was right to publicly rebuke him for his stupid statements.
However, after complaining about Pfleger, as of this writing the Rifle Association has not yet condemned the threats on Sen. Kotowski's life. It has expressed zero concern for the Senator's safety, or the safety of his staff and his family.
The group's silence is deafening, and informative. It's Johnny on the spot when a priest makes inflammatory remarks about its own allies, but looks the other way when somebody on the opposite side of the political fence is threatened.
As Father Pfleger prepared to speak at another antigun rally last week, the Rifle Association sent out a press release whining that the State Police exhibited a "double standard" when it refused to investigate the Catholic priest, but did check in on people who contacted Kotowski's office.
Later in the release, the gun group asked whether Pfleger would show some "dignity" at the antigun rally or once again behave like "an absurd, yet malevolent, cartoon character."
But over the past several months when I, and others, repeatedly pointed out that "malevolent" comments were popping up all over the Internet about Kotowski, the Rifle Association remained mum.
"Sounds to me like Sen. Kotowski deserves to be threatened. Why, if he were to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head three times, it wouldnÕt surprise me one bit," wrote one person the other day on a pro-gun website.
The people who run the Rifle Association ought to look in the mirror the next time they scream about "double standards."
Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and thecapitolfaxblog.com